Explore the themes of “love and Loss’ and how they are expressed in the poems “When we two parted” by Lord Byron and “first Love” by John Clare.
“When we two parted” by Lord Byron and “First Love” by John Clare both deal with love that was once dear and is lost. While “When we two parked” is about the unhappy end of a clandestine romance, “First Love” is about unrequited love.
The title of “When we two parked” is direct and provides a glimpse of Byron’s feeling of heartbreak, despair and desolation.
Reiterated in the first line, it lends the poem a tone of sadness and melancholy.
The words “First Love” summons a feeling of innocence and naï¿½vetï¿½, the poet has never been in love before and is doomed to get his heart broken. His title lends a tone of hope, which is ultimately crushed, making it an ironic title.
The regular ‘ABABCDCD’ rhyming scheme of both these poems lends a feeling of constant loss and desolation.
Enjambment is used to mirror the chaos of the poet’s feelings, in “When we two parked”. “First Love” has punctuation marks after almost every line, mirroring the poet’s innocence.
Both the poems use vivid imagery of cold. “First Love” uses ‘snow’ and ‘winter’ to mirror desolation after the first exhilaration of love; and the snow symbolises the death of the poet’s love. “When we two parked” uses ‘chill’ and ‘dew’ to explore the feelings of betrayal and tears.
Physical effects of the loss of love is evident in “First Love” as the poet uses violent metaphoric verbs to symbolise his anguish – ‘blood burnt’, reference to blood abound in the poem, linking his love to his very life. He is blinded by infatuation, his eyesight gone ‘quite away’ as he figuratively explains how he could se none but his love.
Byron also feels physical pain when he remembers his love, but this is a pain of shame, a ‘knell to his ear’. We ‘shudder’ as he remembers his relationship and insinuates about her unfaithfulness. Byron is ashamed and regrets his relationship deeply. The woman is described as ‘pale’ in the poem, not the man, suggesting that she was responsible for the ‘break up’.
Both the poems have an element of deception in them. In “When we two parted” Byron openly blames his lover for ending the relationship and leaving him ‘half broken hearted’. He portrays her as a flirt and as being ‘light’ while he ‘shares the shame’. They shared a clandestine relationship, one that the society would have frowned upon.
In “First Love”, the deception is the poets own, as Clare details how he fell for a woman only for her looks. He was infatuated with her and her ‘sweet face’ and blamed himself when she did not requite his love. His innocence is taken away as he describes his ‘heart’ which will never recover from the blow.
The last stanza of the poems shows that the love has not been forgotten. Byron imagines his meeting with his lady and how he would react, while Clare believes that he can never love again. ‘My heart … can return no more’.
“First Love” uses alliteration to detail the poet’s feeling of novelty, sibilants such as ‘sudden and sweet’, being in love for the first time and repetition of ‘pale’ to reinforce the feeling. ‘Pale’ also fore shadows an unhappy end to his love. Personification and hyperbole abound as he is carried away by his infatuation, but again, ‘clay’ and ‘aid’ suggest that all is not well.
By the last stanza, innocence has turned to weary experience as he asks the rhetorical question – ‘Are flower’s the winter’s choice?’ He is dejected but the last stanza shows a hint of acceptance – but not forgiveness, as he blames her very soul for deceiving him.
“When we two parted” and “First Love” both speak about the loss of love. Sometimes it is one sided (and has turned to hate), blaming the woman who ended Byron’s relationship ‘thy vows are all broken’ and sometimes unrequited, but not forgotten, as with John Clare. But to both the poets, love is a beautiful feeling to be enjoyed, only regretted when it is over.